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I recently stumbled upon an eyeglasses website based in Wales, which I am mightily impressed by. is the website of FocusFix, Ltd. which was founded in 1994. The website came online in 2003.

The selection at is good, I counted a few hundred model options and many hundreds more when colors are tossed into the mix. You'll find a limited selection of designer brands as well as the generics aimed at the more budget conscious audience.

UPDATED: There is an error on the tinting price when you choose USD as the currency -- I really doubt that they'd charge £8 if you're in the UK and $170 in the US. I assume this to be $17 for USD, but I'll get confirmation on it. Coatings are a bit pricey for this market segment, but certainly not outrageous.

"So when are you going to tell us about the FREE eyeglasses?"

Patience, my bespectacled friends.

I reviewed their "Virtual Modelling System" (VMS) in a previous entry. If you give it a try, you too can get the "freebies" in the neighbourhood (it is an English company after all) of $8 (you didn't expect free shipping did you?). It really is quite nice and fun! -- Click here for details.

You're not going to find any frames that will turn heads (in any "good" way), but you'll find some very servicable, sturdy frames to be sure. Limit one pair per household, and they limit it to something like 20 free pairs per day so it might take a bit of waiting to get in on the deal. Also, thanks to anonymous, we've found out that there are prescription strength limits to the stock lenses (which makes practical and economical sense) and that there may even be a discrepancy as to what constitutes a "stock lens".

I decided to go retro and get a pair reminiscent of a pair I owned maybe 10 years ago -- bigger lenses than usual and hopefully perfect for those late nights coding at the laptop.

The VMS view.

I received mine about two weeks after ordering them. They were "dispatched" (I love the English) within 48 hours of my order. The included case and SpecsOnTheNet logo microfiber cleaning cloth was an unexpected bonus -- especially for a FREE pair of eyeglasses.

The release of their VMS also ushered in their ability to offer bi/varifocals for those of you needing them.

The tortoise-shell isn't nearly as "comic book" in person, although the glasses may be. My four year-old said, "You look like Clark Kent!"

The actual pair (look Ma, no AR!).

That said, the prescription is perfect and they are excellent glasses for the purpose.

Would I buy from Absolutely. I intend on getting something flashy in the next few weeks. As always, I'll check in with the results.

My apologies for the dangling pseudo-preposition, but sometimes we do what we must for the sake of a headline.

One of the most common questions I get is something akin to, "But how do you know that the glasses will look good on your face?" My short answer is, "you don't," but that is slowly changing.

I've written a bit on my process for finding frames that would look good on my face in past posts, but generally, the numbers stamped on the inside of the temples (or on the bridge) of your current eyeglasses are numbers that can certainly help you make a decision that won't make you look like a complete doofus. You chose your current frames for a reason, and sometimes it's better to stick with something that works than to take a chance.

This isn't as big of an issue when one considers the cost of the eyeglasses at the online retailers. I like to take a risk every now and then and have done so with my eyeglasses orders. I'll order one pair that I know will look good and something else -- cheap -- that is a bit iffy but appealing for one reason or another.

There is another option, that I tried for the first time a few weeks ago. Try on your frames -- virtually. These all work in roughly the same way:

  1. upload a photo
  2. tell the system where the centers of your eyes are
  3. pick a frame
  4. see what it looks like superimposed over your photo
It's not fool-proof and the concept is much easier than the execution.

This isn't brand new technology, but it's getting better as can be seen at

SpecsOnTheNet is an English eyeglasses firm with an excellent website (I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars if I was in to that sort of thing) -- including their "Virtual Modelling System" (VMS), which is really, quite nice. You can find it by clicking HERE.

This is the best of the batch, and if you try only one, this should be that one.

Their prices are quite good, if not a bit confusing (only certain areas of the site update the prices to USD when you click on Old Glory in the top right corner) -- something I hope they'll upgrade soon as we've got a pretty big market over on this side of the pond.

There is a link near the top of their home page to a quick 35 second video demo -- Take a look.

 also has a fitting feature. Theirs is service-marked "FrameFinder Virtual Try-On" and it's decent, if not entirely confidence-building.

Resizing the frames on my face leads me to think I might not actually get what I think I am getting as I'm quite certain there aren't an infinite number of frame sizes for each style (see the third FramesDirect image for a particularly head-shaking example).

They are on version 8 of the software, if you look at the footer on the page, but it certainly doesn't have the feel of v8. I'd take these looks with more than a grain of salt. It certainly doesn't feel like looking in a mirror.

The "Jerry Falwell"

The "WTF" has its clumsily-named "E Try It On" feature which works pretty well to get you moving in the right direction towards frames that fit your face and personality. This website is packed with great info, and their try-on system is pretty good too. Their prices aren't necessarily for the real "deal-minded", but if you are looking for a replacement frame, you will save here over a B&M shop.

Overall, I'd rate them in the following order:
  1. SpecsOnTheNet (and bonus points for the excellent value they offer)

Thanks for making the past couple of months so interesting and rewarding! I appreciate all of the kind words.

- Ira

P.S. Look for a new post on new technology in the next day or two!

(An excellently composed review from 'horsethiefbandit' -- Thanks!)

Saw a link on Lifehacker and decided to give it a go. Went with the
same hingeless rimless frames Ira purchased. Order was delivered in 10 days. Got an email confirmation of shipping from Zenni. Came with a hard case.

Overall, I'm quite happy with my purchase. In hindsight, I wouldn't have bought the clip on shades -- they are really cheap quality and do not fit the shape of my lenses. I had ordered them because they were only $4, but I'd advise others to save the money and buy a latte.

I also regret not paying for the higher index lenses. My prescription is 3.00 in only one eye and I wanted to keep the price low for my first try online, but next time I'd definitely spring the extra $19 for thinner lenses - especially with rimless frames.

The Zenni web site could be a lot better. It would be nice if the site offered multiple viewing angles of the frames, as well as the ability to view the frames with different lens shapes when applicable. It'd also be nice to see the glasses modeled on a human face. And if I'd seen a visual comparison of lens thickness from mid-index to hi-index, that probably would have sold me on the hi-index.

My overall rating is a 4. The glasses I got were of excellent quality. But they lose a point for the shortcomings of the web site.

I also second his opinions on the high-index lenses (glad I got it on this model) and on the clip on shades, although I still use mine, when necessary, and they're cheaper than even Target or Walmart -- Ira.

According to a comment on my "Connected Optometrist" post, Mellowknees (who is married to an optician), tells us they do the following:

Opticians are specially trained (and required to be certified in many states, but not all) to measure distance between eyes, adjust fit of glasses, etc., so that when your glasses are ordered from the lab (or the optician actually makes the glasses for you) the prescription lines up properly between the lens and the eye.

If you have any of the normal anomoles that most human faces have (i.e. one ear sits lower than the other, pupillary distance is shorter or longer than average), glasses you get online that are created by a lab that has never seen you, that does not have your specific facial measurements, are very likely not going to be as satisfying for you as glasses that you've actually been fitted for would be.

I had my wife measure my PD (pupilary distance) with a ruler -- the method described on most of the sites. She nailed it and has never spent a day in the optical field, married to an optician, or even wearing glasses (granted, she does have a few months of specialized training in the fundamentals of the metric system in the late 70's at Lincoln Elementary in Alexandria, MN). I had this number validated a couple of weeks ago on a two-year old prescription that was in my top drawer.

As for anomalies, I'm 37-year old guy. My ears and eyes have likely stopped moving all over my head. I'd gladly pay the very fair amount of ten U.S. dollars for someone to adjust my glasses for me (I think $60 an hour is a VERY fair rate). My PD (pupilary distance) isn't changing from pair to pair so that's locked in. The fact that I have one ear lower than the other is something I can adjust my frames to -- and if I wasn't comfortable doing it, I know someone at a store will take a few bucks to do it.

I'm not a "rocket surgeon", and I don't have the most complicated prescription in the world, but even I could read and enter numbers correctly into a web form, get my credit card out and order a great fitting and functioning pair of eyeglasses online.

And I didn't get hosed.